This new year will bring many changes to my life, though I have no idea what those changes will be. I will be leaving my father’s house, of course, but other than that, the future is blank. (Not bleak, just blank.)
The only thing I know is that I don’t want to settle down somewhere and stagnate. I realize that settling down does not necessarily bring stagnation, but in my case, I am afraid that entropy would win. (If you’re not familiar with entropy, my understanding is that entropy is the quantity of energy in a closed system that becomes disordered and unavailable to effect changes in the system, and so the system gradually degrades into chaos, or even worse, inertia.)
The reduction to inertia is not inevitable. Some of the disordered energy can be allowed to escape, which reduces the amount of entropy, and new energy can be introduced. The problem is that when one lives alone, it takes a lot of energy to introduce new energy to the system. It’s so much easier just to go with the flow, and if you have no one to disrupt the flow as you do when you are living with someone, the flow is toward a decrease in available energy. At least for me and other introverts. Extroverts by their nature increase the energy in a system. It’s what makes them extroverts. (The strange irony here seems to be that although introverts prefer to be alone, they need a shared life much more than extroverts.)
At the beginning of a settled life, I would do things, of course, but as time passed, I would become entrenched in my habits, would get tired of the same sights, the same errands, the same . . . everything. And my world would shrink and continue shrinking until I became the crazy cat lady sans cats.
Such a shrinking is natural. Bruce Chatwin understood our heritage as nomads and explained the necessity for keeping on the move, especially by foot. Chatwin wrote:
Some American brain specialists took encephalogram readings of travellers. They found that changes of scenery and awareness of the passage of seasons through the year stimulated the rhythms of the brain, contributing to a sense of well being and an active purpose in life. Monotonous surroundings and tedious regular activities wove patterns which produce fatigue, nervous disorders, apathy, self disgust and violent reactions.
Chatwin goes on to say: We should follow the Chinese poet Li Po in “the hardships of travel and the many branchings of the way”. For life is a journey through wilderness. This concept, universal to the point of banality, could not have survived unless it was biologically true. None of our revolutionary heroes is worth a thing until he has been on a good walk. Che Guevara spoke of the “nomadic phase” of the Cuban Revolution. Look what the Long March did for Mao Tse Tung, or Exodus for Moses.
I do not know if I have the physical capacity for walking long distances carrying a heavy pack. (Hmm. Maybe I could hire a Sherpa. Are there Sherpas for hire here in the USA?) I have no interest in being a revolutionary hero or a spiritual leader, but I do want, need . . . more. More than stagnation. More than simply enduring the coming years. More than any life I can imagine.
If in fact, we do live in the closed system of our lives, perhaps it is possible to poke holes in that system to let in more light. Perhaps it is possible to gently push back the boundaries of that system to allow for greater breadth or let new experiences create greater depth.
Perhaps it is possible to . . .
The thought of how that italicized sentence might end fuels my new year.
Wishing you a year of yet unimagined possibilities.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.